This is chapter 5 of “Redemption” a fictional tale set in the EVE Universe. Please see this page for more background on this story.
He didn’t drown of course, it was technically impossible. Capsuleers panic and thrash occasionally but eventually they all get used to it – in fact, many preferred to stay in their warm, safe, nourishing womb and experience the world as projection to their conscience rather than stepping into the cold and harsh world of meat and metal.
Spending time in the simulator, Orv acquired knowledge on space ship command and was getting better and better at controlling a his simulated frigate when he was rather suddenly told that he had graduated, he was to check out of his temporary quarters and pick up his new Velator-class frigate.
No ceremony, no handshake from “The Dean”, no speech from a local dignitary, nothing. The academy was run by non-capsuleers with strong distrust of their own students – the quicker they got out, the safer everyone felt.
Freedom. Choose your path, decide your destiny. Live the life you want to have – forever. Orv had never thought about this very moment but when it struck him, it struck him hard. He was free. He could go with his ship wherever he wanted, do what he wanted and shoot who he wanted. He had nothing to lose at this point and all to gain. If he abandoned his sister, nobody would judge him.
Orv sat down in the mess hall and stared out of windows at the mighty gas planet they orbited. Its colors shifted depending on the light and thick glass distorted the view so that it looked closer. Orv wanted to reach out and touch it and realized that now, in command of his own spaceship, he could.
The next day, he took the padded elevator from the plush capsuleer quarters down to the Hangar where his new ship and its three man crew would be waiting for him. He was greeted by the deafening cacophony of a working shipyard and the sight of hundreds of engineers crawling over the largest fleet of frigates anyone had ever built. All Velator class ships were built here and exported across all stations of New Eden. If a Gallente capsuleer lost his ship somehow, all he had to do was do dock up at any friendly station and he would be issued a new one. Consequently, thousands were needed every month and they were all built right here.
The sight of this massive operation brought reality back into Orv’s vision. He had been secluded in the capsuleer academy, immersed in his studies and isolated from the real world of meat and steel. Capsuleers were not supposed to mix with mortals, the difference that immortality gave them made them effectively a new species. And while capsuleers showered their crew with ISK to buy their loyalty, they were all afraid of the day when the shipyards would be on strike and their immortality could not buy them their next meal. The mortals on the other hand knew that they were seen by capsuleers as much as consumables as their ammunition or their ships. There was never a reason to trust a capsuleer and they showed it by polite indifference to them but excellence to the ship’s maintenance.
And there she was.
A Velator Class frigate with a couple of older guys in beige suits doing last minute systems diagnostics. Orv stepped into the main artery of the shipyard and was nearly run over by cart carrying combat drones, small, automated craft that could be ejected from the frigates and steered towards their targets. They seemed sleek, polished and deadly but Orv had no time to study them, his crew noticed his appearance and turned towards him.
Orv was determined to have a different connection to his crew than other capsuleers. In them, he saw his father who had never lost his passion for space, his lust for adventure and his love for engineering. The transformation from mortal to capsuleer had not changed him in his feelings – if anything, it had made him more sensitive – and Orv keenly wished nothing but trust with his crew.
He approached his ship and the two crewmen with a tight smile. “Morning sir”, the shorter of the two engineers said simply. “Ready to take her out?”. Up in the office, Orv had demanded the crew manifesto with names in addition to titles. This had raised a few eyebrows but Orv knew now who he was flying with. The manifesto had come with grainy photos. “Yes, Mr. Lavoisier, lets take her for a spin”.The crewman’s eyes widened slightly. New capsuleers could be unpredictable and crewmen learn to fear a prepared and determined capsuleer more than a hapless day-sailor. Casual pilots will blow up the ship but do it where the crew can easily escape. Serious pilots have something to prove and could get a crew into real trouble. Orv was serious.
The second crew man stood silent but gestured towards the short gangway. Orv ducked inside and in the narrow bulkhead ran into his third crew member, a short, lithe Minmatar woman with bright green eyes fixed on Orv like a cat staring at a mouse. Orv mumbled something, squeezed past and physically felt her eyes burn holes into his back.
He entered the comparatively large cargo bay and turned around. His crew had followed him.
Orv cleared his throat: “We are going out today to make some ISK. We will mine a few Velspar asteroids and bring the ore back here for refining. We will not shoot unless in self defense and then only to secure our retreat. We may leave the system and roam for safer and richer asteroids but we will stay in Gallente-controlled high-security space. Any questions”? And when none came, he added: “I know what you are thinking. I have my reasons to dislike capsuleers and I just wanted to tell you that I will try to earn your trust.”
He turned around, walked down the narrow corridors and found the cockpit cramped with nothing but a pod on its ejection skid. He took his clothes off, climbed into the pod, closed the hatch and flooded it with goo. Orv had practiced this so many times by now that the sensation of drowning was surpassed by his fear of disappointing his crew.
The sensation of plugging his brain into a living, breathing ship was quite different from the simulator. There were imperfections with every engineered system and Orv felt each as if it was part of his body. He instinctively knew the airlock was still open but the crew was already strapped into their make-shift pods.With a thought, he closed the lock and over-pressured the ship checking for leaks.He felt self-conscious, as if he was playing for an audience, his crew was watching every one of his moves.
Orv opened the communication relay and request permission to undock. His voice signature was confirmed by flight control, his frigate was pushed onto onto a rail and accelerated rapidly down towards the main undock shoot. Where the rail ended, Orv initiated the Velator’s tiny engine and propelled himself into the void. The view of the sheer fall below him made him want to hug the station wall for comfort but the steering was still locked to him. He tried to steady himself.
This was the time he had been working for so long. He was in charge of his own craft and no matter how small and pathetic it was, this little frigate represented a huge step towards his revenge and his sister’s freedom.
When the station’s tractor beams let go of his little hull, Orv accelerated straight ahead, keeping the curved Gallente Station astern. He gently nudged the side thrusters, bending his path and he was rewarded with a very nimble response of his craft. The crew was at work computing ranges and threat levels of nearby ships and generally making sure they would not run into anything. Orv turned on his neocom and projected map features of the world around him into his virtual view. He selected a random asteroid belt and initiated warp.
He had been on many ships before during warp so the sensation was not new to him. But he knew the tremendous danger that is involved with this maneuver and in the past, he had always trusted the pilot and his navigator not to warp the into the sun, embed them into a planet or simply warp into another ship. Now he was the pilot and his while he was technically immortal, warping was the one thing where things could go seriously wrong for his crew.
Orv was so busy being afraid that he did not savor the view – the distorted planets, the long drawn out stars zooming past and only when they landed in safe distance of several Veldspar asteroids, he felt relatively safe. His crew checked in fine, slightly bored and immediately surveyed the field for the best asteroids and possible danger. Orv slightly nudged his craft towards the first large rock that he saw – impressive in size and violently rotating.
He knew that Velspar was quite valuable these days for the tritanium they contain and he locked his targeting system onto the rock while closing range. His crew heated up the mining laser and it was his job now to position his ship close enough to the floating and spinning rock that the laser could be properly focused but keep the ship aligned to somewhere in case there was trouble and he needed to bug out quickly.
At 10km range, Orv could see little dimples in the asteroid and he commanded the laser to initiate its pulse. By New Eden standards, this mining laser was minuscule but in relation to the tiny ship it seemed huge. The hard, focused 450nm beam hit the asteroid and instantly evaporated the rocks within it. The ore “vapor” was transported as plasma back up on the inside of the hollow laser beam, driven by the field the coherent photons exerted when spun wildly around the center of the beam. The plasma would be guided directly into the cargo bay where it cooled and solidified back as dust – containing the valuable minerals within.
Orv had long decided that he would seek his fortune as a miner and not as combat pilot. Mining may appear boring but it was safe and an honorable profession. He also could save up tremendous amounts of ISK and relatively quickly afford one of the enormous Hulk mining exhumers which could strip entire belts within hours.
The first round of ore was in the bay and a computer-estimated price showed that he already mined more ISK than his father would have earned in a month when a sharp warning signal from his crew woke him up.
The green eyed Minmatar crew member had detected three frigates owned and operated by the Serpentis faction. Tiny, nimble and without fear, these crafts slip by the Concord Security force at the gates or they are even built in the system in clandestine bases. They operate in pairs normally but this time they had a third with them and all three changed their course towards him. Orv did not know how to react when their first salvo hit. He had slipped on his attention and the craft had drifted into the asteroid he was mining. Freeing it would cost valuable seconds and the three pirates mercilessly would pound on his ship until it turned into valuable salvage.
His crew targeted the crafts – Orv should have done that seconds ago – and heated up the pathetic civilian gun. Orv realized that everyone waited for his command to open fire but he hesitated. They had not been attacked. Serpentis or not, there were human beings on these little ships that he could only see as fast moving specs 10km away and tiny red crosses on his overview. Maybe they had not seen him? Maybe he could talk them out of the attack? No chance, they saw him, they rapidly closed and had him target locked. Orv saw on his neocom that his crew members were getting ready to eject their own make-shift pods when the first salvo hit his small craft. Orv winced in pain, yes they had trained for this in the simulator but the sharp pain that the enemy fire evokes in his capsule was still surprising.
The entire capsuleer system worked of course in that way. Orv experienced the ship as an extension of his body. So, damage to the ship came across as pain. It was that simple. The more damage the ship took, the more pain Orv felt. And right now, he was being hit with hot needles across the chest, indicating that the three Serpentis were well into his shields. Orv opened fire. He hoped that he would scare them away but inside he knew this was not possible. He tried to maneuver the ship away from the rock and kept firing at one one of the pirates. His neocom told him that his shots were having some effect but his shields were failing fast. He had to get away from the asteroid and gain transversal speed to mitigate the damage of the enemy frigates. He achieved the goal and sped to ~230m/s when his shield gave and the enemy salvos now landed in his armor eliciting a feeling as if was punched into the stomach with a red-hot iron rod. But his transversal was now good enough to mitigate at least some of the damage and he had totally forgotten that he was now free to escape. The combination of adrenaline rushing through his body and the pain exerted by the enemy rounds caused a rush in Orv that he had never experienced. He literally saw “red” and closed the range to the hostile pilots.
Setting a tight orbit of 1000m, his spitball gun was tracking decently whereas the Serpentis weapons were rather poor and their rounds kept missing. The first pirate frigate was near structure and Orv realized that he could live through this if his speed held up. He had forgotten that he was immortal but but he did realize that he was responsible for his crew.
The first pirate ship blew up, 2km away and while Orv saw the explosion, his neocom only showed a red cross turning into a yellow triangle. So, thats how the Iteron looked like when the Amarr pilot shot him down in cold blood. Orv could not see any rescue pods escaping, saw no bodies, no signs. Just a yellow triangle and a spec of debris on the background of endless space.
Orv switched targets – well his crew did – and the spitball gun tracked its new victim mercilessly. Orv caught himself trying to have an emotion other than pain or rage but it wouldn’t come. Then the second frigate blew up, blinding him with its explosion. The third followed shortly and Orv’s tight nerves kept scanning for additional targets when his crew spun down the gun and surveyed the damage to his ship.
His armor was badly damaged but nothing that couldn’t be fixed. His crew suggested to steer the ship closer to the wrecks and investigate if they contained anything of value. They had a lot of practice in this and Orv followed their advice and engaged the autonomous crane that pried open the wreck and searched for valuable items. There was a little and Orv decided to take his damaged Velator back to the station for repairs. His crew aligned the beat-up ship towards the station and Orv initiated warp.
In warp, his nerves calmed and he wondered how he did. Why did he not run away as had announced to the crew? Did he kill anyone? Were there women and children now without a father because of him? Was there anyone on these ships who did not want to be there?
Docking was smooth and the slight vane of fire coming from his engines was seen as nothing abnormal. His ship was towed to a repair hangar and Orv climbed out of his pod, retched the goo and dressed. He went downstairs to survey the damage and found the station crew already at work, carts of spare armor plates had arrived next to the gangway and he had the distinct feeling of being in the way.
He turned and walked back into his ship to find the crew. They were busy fixing the mechanical fire control mechanism that had taken damage and looked up when he walked in. “I just wanted to thank you” Orv said. The crewmen were crouched under the consoles and only Mr. Lavoisier spoke up: “good job sir” and initiated a mock-salute.
Orv turned and could not suppress a broad grin on his face.